Sabres' Botterill was calculated in getting players he targeted

Buffalo's general manager now turns to free agency and trades

Paul Hamilton
June 22, 2019 - 10:24 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

Vancouver, BC (WGR 550) - It seemed like Jason Botterill and his staff were targeting some players so they moved up twice thanks to trades with Vancouver and Detroit. On Day 2 of the draft, there were going to be no CHL players taken by Buffalo like No. 1 pick Dylan Cozens, and that was by design. As far as getting the players he wanted, Botterill said, “There was a grouping of guys and we were just a little concerned that as we went through the draft there were certain guys that we did want to target. That was the flexibility we had with multiple late round picks.”

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The New Jersey Devils will get Taylor Hall back after he only played 33 games last season, picking up 37 points. They traded for P.K. Subban and drafted Jack Hughes first overall. Two years ago, they drafted Nico Hischier first overall, so this is a much improved team.

Buffalo hasn’t done anything yet to improve its team other than draft Dylan Cozens, who will likely spend next season in juniors. With the free agent courting period starting on Sunday, Botterill must turn his attention to making this club better by trade or free agency. The GM said, “Over the last few drafts, the top picks have come to the Eastern Conference and it continues to be loaded up there and we were very fortunate to get Rasmus last year, but a lot of our eastern competitors are also getting high on talent and look, over the next week here whether it’s through trades or free agency there’s going to be ups and downs and we’ll continue to look at all avenues here.”

Many want to move Sam Reinhart to center, which I think is a ridiculous idea. Every time its been tried on the NHL level it has failed. He is turning into a real good winger, and it makes no sense to me to mess with it. Botterill doesn’t seem like he’s for it either, “It’s always a possibility, you have to be open to it and we’ll see how things with Ralph go, but I also think over the last year or so he’s excelled on the wing and I think he’s in a position where he can drive a line from the wing.”

Reinhart can be entitled, curt and difficult to deal with. This past season, he seemed to make somewhat of an effort to change that and he wanted to be a part of things happening in his hometown of Vancouver, “It’s a sign of our younger players excited about where our organization is going in the future and he want to be a part of it," Botterill said.

“I enjoyed interacting with Sam over in Slovakia with Team Canada. Coming here this week, he reached out to me late last week and it was a great opportunity for Ralph, myself, the Pegulas and the management group. Had dinner with him on Wednesday night and he certainly wanted to be around here to bring the newest member into the organization.

“It just seems like his communication with management has taken a step and we’re seeing that in his training too.”

With Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen having double hip surgery, he may not be ready to start in Rochester. That means in the next few weeks, Botterill needs to bring in a No. 3 goalie, “We have to be very patient with Luukkonen. It is a little bit of a setback, so we feel very comfortable with our two goalies at the National Hockey League, we have Jonas [Johansson] where we think he can help out in Rochester, but we’ll be looking trying to find a No. 3 goalie to add to the organization.”

I always talk about how Botterill sometimes has discussions for months laying the groundwork for trades. He said, “It’s been more this year, but whether that leads to the next step is anyone’s belief, but I think the fact that there’s so much parity in the National Hockey League and you have teams eliminated in the first round that had Stanley Cup expectations, then you hear about the salary cap situation, there’s a lot of things in flux with that, so we’ll see how the next week progresses and I think it’s a little different this year with July 1st being a little further out from the draft, so I’m sure there will be plenty of rumors and plenty of discussions.”

Botterill is trying to get players to come to Buffalo after eight straight years of not making the playoffs. He said there are ways to get players to the Sabres, “It’s always the job of management and coaches to sell what we’re trying to create, but the best selling point is our players.

“I think players in the National Hockey League see our young talent that we have, there’s Jack, Sam, Rasmus [Dahlin] and hopefully by stepping up and signing Jeff Skinner shows that we’re going to reward players and they want to be a part of things here in Buffalo, so hopefully that mix is attractive to other players out there.”

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